BELTS TIGHTENED: Husband-and-wife team Donna and Tony Graham, of Tony Graham Roadfreight in North Lismore, will be directly affected by fuel subsidy changes.
BELTS TIGHTENED: Husband-and-wife team Donna and Tony Graham, of Tony Graham Roadfreight in North Lismore, will be directly affected by fuel subsidy changes. The Northern Star

Fears Northern NSW fuel subsidy may go

CHEAPER Queensland fuel may soon be a mere memory for south-of-the-border 'Mexicans'.

And Lismore transport driver Tony Graham will miss it most.

Spiralling diesel prices have affected everyone, from truck drivers to working mums.

And now that Queensland aims to limit who gets its 8.35 cents a litre fuel subsidy, the NSW Government may pull its own petrol support.

That would drive prices higher on our stretch of coast, at great cost to working families, local Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack said.

NSW Treasury would not comment on whether it would pull its own graded petrol subsidy, which is greatest at the Tweed border and least south of Coffs Harbour.

That may be clarified after today's Budget announcement.

Meanwhile, Mr Graham and every other local motorist face a certain fuel price jump in future.

Mr Graham is a transport driver with 28 years' experience, five of them as an independent business operator.
 
He said Queensland's plans would pave the way for bigger operators to take over from the little guys.

"Rising fuel prices in the past month have made this a hard game," he said. "Our margins are tighter.

"Where we used to make a run to Brisbane every day now we go twice a week.
 
"There is not much freight moving around."

With Queensland working to restrict its fuel subsidy to locals only, Mr Graham will no longer save precious dollars at Queensland bowsers on the way home from his Brisbane run.

Ms Cusack, a resident of Lennox Head, says Queensland's plans highlight a terrible dysfunction between the NSW and Queensland Labor governments.

"It's outrageous," Ms Cusack said. "This action by Queensland puts us in Northern NSW in a different class.

"We need to make a very big fuss over the potential for the NSW Government to suspend its petrol subsidy scheme.

"It is not a perk. On the North Coast we do not have a level playing field for business.

"If we are excluded from cheaper fuel in Queensland is that a barrier to trade? Is that action potentially unconstitutional?

"If we lose our subsidy locally there is the potential we could end up paying more at our bowsers than anywhere else in NSW.

"This is really going to upset the apple cart for the cost of living in a profound way.

"We are a cross-border community here. The Iemma and Costa Government needs to get back in touch with affected families.

"The NSW Government must recommit to petrol subsidies here on the North Coast, or the affect on our local economy will be catastrophic.

"Why would a rental car company or even a florist, who has to deliver goods, maintain a business in NSW. And the closer to the border that business is, the harder it is hit."

Meanwhile, Service Station Association chief executive Ron Bowden has backed the plan saying precious government money would be returned to general revenue, for use in schools, hospitals and roads.

That included the $40.9 million spent each year by the NSW Government on its North Coast petrol subsidy.

Mr Bowden said: "If it was up to us the association would scrap all subsidies and have every Australian buy fuel under the same rules."

But, in this case, subsidised Queensland fuel would only go to Queenslanders, who paid for it through their state tax.

"We see it as a win-win situation," he said.


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